Time to shut up and tie up

Alison Diamond explains how to get the most out of that inevitable merger.

Consolidation between law firms, both nationally and internationally, shows no sign of slowing down.

When firms merge successfully, the individual career decisions of their lawyers and support staff come into sharp focus. People start thinking about themselves, their CVs and their futures. Some see it as a threat, others as an opportunity. In reality, it can be both.

While a merger will always create uncertainty, the temptation to immediately ‘jump ship’ should be avoided. Any merger takes a minimum of six months to bed down and a decision to move on should be balanced against how this will be perceived in the marketplace. An early departure is often seen as a failure to make the grade or as the kneejerk reaction of someone afraid of change.

The key for lawyers and support staff alike is to remain openminded. As the two firms begin to integrate fully, career advancement opportunities will often present themselves and a more objective view can be taken. It is important to remember that the two firms have merged with the intention of creating a stronger practice, and a stronger practice can provide a better career path. That could include a faster route to partnership or better quality work for the individuals within it.

One of the pitfalls that some fall into post-merger is to bemoan the passing of the old firm. This is fatal when trying to embrace change in a positive manner.

Alison Diamond is a direcotr and specialist legal recruiter at recruitment firm Torres and Partners.

Bear in mind that the board or the partners implemented the merger in order to become a different entity, either structurally, commercially or culturally, and once this decision has been made there is an inevitability that change will happen in one form or another. Staying the same in today’s legal marketplace is not an option. You have to evolve to survive.

The key to a successful merger, and the enhanced career prospects it can bring, is effective integration. Prolonged uncertainty and poor integration can be a recipe for greater internal upheaval. Every individual can play a part in smoothing this process and it is crucial that everybody in the new firm takes part. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the managing partner and senior colleagues to ensure issues of communication and harmonisation are handled effectively, but there is also individual responsibility for all within the firm.

The integration period is a time when subtle ‘tweaks’ can be made to the overall game plan. You can make a difference. Sulking from the sidelines will damage your own career prospects as well as the overall integration process.

Whether you are delighted or disillusioned by merger, there is a chance for all to create a win-win scenario as long as you keep a positive attitude, an open mind and, basically, hold your nerve.

Alison Diamond is a director and specialist legal recruiter at recruitment firm Torres and Partners